By Rich Bockmann
The woman in charge of building buzz for downtown Jamaica’s retail strip is moving on to Brooklyn, where her expertise will help two business districts work together.
Katie Mirkin is leaving her job as director of retail and economic development at the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District to take a position as the deputy executive director of the team that will be creating a joint-management structure for the Church Avenue and Flatbush Avenue BIDs in central Brooklyn.
“I’ll be taking all I’ve been doing here and applying it there,” said Mirkin, who first started working in downtown Jamaica two years ago as a consultant studying shopping preferences in the neighborhood.
Mirkin’s tenure in downtown Jamaica coincided with a time of transition for the area that was once a major retail destination for Queens and Long Island, but has been left with fewer choices by decades of disinvestment.
Under her direction the BID’s studies found there is $2.5 billion in unmet demand for full-service restaurants, clothing stores and home furnishing outlets — and armed with this information, Mirkin set out to pair Jamaica Avenue’s property owners with potential tenants.
Events like Jamaica Revealed held in December had the neighborhood’s three BIDs, city agencies, the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and members of the business and arts communities joined in the effort to promote the area to potential restaurateurs.
“I’m really proud of the way that the public and private organizations have come together to collaborate on initiatives that serve the community,” Mirkin said.
As the head of the BID’s retail efforts, Mirkin worked with property owners to show their sites off to potential tenants, and she said she has hopes that the district will be able to bring in a few big names.
Last year the developer United American, which brought an H&M store to a site it revamped in downtown Brooklyn, assembled three properties along a key strip of Jamaica Avenue, including the landmarked Jamaica Savings Bank, and Mirkin said the developer is in talks with the likes of a TJ Maxx or Raymour & Flannigan to fulfill shoppers’ needs.
Private investment has lured a trendy barbecue restaurant to the area and the GJDC has spurred several retail, residential and hotel developments that promise to transform the neighborhood in the coming years.
Mirkin said the successes so far have come from strong collaboration with all the interested parties — a key lesson she will bring with her as she heads to Brooklyn.
“It takes a lot of time to listen to everybody,” she said. “The last thing you want to do is not follow through on the listening.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.